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A Case for Ignoring a Job Candidate's Education History

Why one UK law firm actively ignores where its candidates got their degrees.
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Many companies will say they don't much care where their prospective employees went to school, but it can be difficult to look past the glitz and glamour that comes with an application from an Ivy League graduate.

But one UK law firm has taken a drastic step to put its money where its moth is--and gotten positive results. According to the UK newspaper The Independent, Clifford Chance has adopted a "CV blind" policy when it comes to hiring.

Turning a Blind Eye

As candidates' resumes come to the company, they are judged by a panel based purely on work experience, according to the paper. The panel then recommends a set of candidates who should come in for final interviews, and do not tell the interviewer anything about the candidates' education.

The idea works twofold: First, it helps to keep inherent biases in check. If an HR rep or hiring manager has no idea where a candidate went to school, they won't enter the interview already inclined toward the candidate with the more prestigious educational pedigree.

On the other end of the spectrum--the candidates' end--this also encourages applications from candidates from less prestigious schools who might be intimidated or see little use in applying. Clifford Chance is one of the UK's premiere law firms, and the British legal industry is known for showing preferential treatment to graduates from top universities. If quality candidates are discouraged from applying due to a lack of confidence in how their degree is perceived, that's the company's loss.

The results have shown the system to be a success, as defined by hiring from a more diverse set of schools. In its first year using this system, the firm hired graduate trainees from 41 different schools--a 30 percent increase from the year before.

"The overall object is to make sure we never lose out on talent, wherever it comes from," a Clifford Chance recruitment manager told The Independent. "We need to make sure we have the very best people spread out across the whole of the UK in terms of institutions."

Redflags

In practice, there's a couple of ways this could potentially fall flat. For one, even though the initial review of applicants is based on work experience, it's conceivable that educational biases could ultimately play a hand, if only a subconscious one.

Also, once the interviewer and candidate are in a room, there's nothing stopping the candidate from boasting his education. Even if the interviewer enters the interview unbiased, he or she could quickly lose that advantage.

IMAGE: Patricia Drury/Flickr
Last updated: Jan 27, 2014




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